P’tit Quinquin (15) | Close-Up Film Review


Dir. Bruno Dumont, France, 2014, 200 mins, in French with English subtitles

Cast: Alane Delhaye, Lucy Caron, Bernard Pruvost, Philippe Jore, Baptiste Anquez, Stephane Boutillier

Directed by French auteur Bruno Dumont, to say this film is odd is a profound understatement. This is an absurdist, metaphysical, murder-mystery comedy, with comparisons to cult classics like Twin Peaks and True Detectiv., P’tit Quinquin revolves around the discovery of human remains stuffed inside a dead cow, as two bizarre law enforcement officers attempt to unravel a seemingly insolvable puzzle.

Although throughout the film the tone remains comic, P’tit Quinquin does touch on its fair share of issues facing a small rural community near Calais. These include immigration, fascism, martial discord and of course death. Some would say it is the French Midsomer Murders. P’tit Quinquin is most definitely a film in which you have to scratch beneath the surface because superficially it is, in all honesty, quite mundane.

The winner at the 2014 Cannes Golden Globe for Best Foreign TV Series, Dumont’s P’tit QuinQuin has now been released in several countries in a cinematic version. Dumont has of course been a winner before, with L’Humanite (1999) and Flandres (2006) winning both winning the Cannes Grand Prix Prize. What you are dealing with when watching P’tit Quinquin is a comical attempt to explain the incomprehensible through the eyes of those who seemingly know as little as the audience does; and attempt that trails off into the surreal. Essentially the entire film resembles one loose end in which nothing is adequately tied up. This is less a problem than a caveat for audiences – you need to watch this one with specific (non-) expectations!

The best elements in P’tit Quinquin are the characters of Quinquin (Alane Delhaye), Eve Terrier (Lucy Caron), Commandant Van der Weyden (Bernard Pruvost) and Lieutenant Carpentier (Philippe Jore) who are the only characters who are somewhat developed in the film. The central relationship between Quinquin and Eve remains touching throughout. Like two star crossed lovers they possess a secret emotional bond, showcased in the film through their numerous embraces as Eve does not see Quinquin’s facial deformity. Throughout the film, the one constant is their enduring affection for one another, which contrasts greatly with Quinquin’s attitude as the head of a mischievous gang of boys.

Pruvost’s performance as Captain Van der Weyden is astonishing. A bizarre mixture of knowledge and immaturity with facial and bodily tics to boot, despite being tasked to investigate the growing series of murders, he seems a lot more concerned with Quinquin’s gang who for most of the film use the vast countryside setting as their personal backyard as they run around unrestrained. P’tit Quinquin plays on the comical mishaps suffered by Weyden and his lieutenant as the mysteries surrounding the series of murders deepen.

Almost half way through watching P’tit Quinquin you realise that to a degree it needs to be taken at face value. Whether you get it or you don’t, the audience’s interpretation seems more important than the intentions of the filmmakers, as everything is at the same time funny and dull.

Structurally P’tit Quinquin’s resembles the episodic structure of the mini-series, but is wholly free of a traditional story arc. Those with the right approach are in for a surprise but it does take patience and open-mindedness. At the same time mystifying, bewildering and unattractive, covering an array of topics that you are unable to list on one hand, P’tit Quinquin possesses some superb acting by a cast of newcomers, being neither laugh-out-loud funny nor deeply dramatic. P’tit Quinquin’s very obvious camera work and staging is an experience in itself, playing out as a muted melodrama with comedic elements as the mock-drama can seldom be explained.

Note to readers: ‪listen out for Lisa Hartman – ‘Cause I Knew’ (you’ll hardy be able to miss it!)

Review by Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark

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